CES Recruits and members of the media don fire fighting gear in preparation to enter a building with live flames.
When members of the media talk about getting into “hot spots” they usually are speaking figuratively, last week however, Chief Chris Mokracek of Central Emergency Services(CES) invited the media to literally feel the heat that firefighters experience on a daily basis, “We have a very dedicated group of firefighters here on the Peninsula and I thought it would be a good opportunity for media people to experience first hand the sights, smells and heat of what firefighters here on the Peninsula and across the nation experience any time we answer a call,” said Mokracek. “I never realized the sensory depravation when you enter a burning building, the fire is terribly loud, you hear voices but you have no idea where they are coming from, you literally can’t see a thing, you have a flash light in your hand but the smoke is so thick you can’t see it at the end of your hand, all you can do is feel your way along the wall, hose or stairway until you get to the flame, then the heat and the steam hits you. I always knew these were special people, but now I understand how special they truly are,” said a reporter.
The occasion was the annual firefighter recruit academy at the CES Training Center on Mackey Lake Road. Chief Mokracek told reporters that the State training standards for firefighters was 124 and that CES required their recruits go through a 264 hour program so that they can recreate at the training center all the situations that a firefighter may experience in an actual situation. “When our recruits graduate from our academy we want them be familiar with everything that they can expect to encounter and every event they may come across in the real world,” said Mokracek. According to Mokracek when a recruit goes on his first call he may be excited, nervous and scared but that all the training kicks in, “It all rushes back and you go on auto pilot to get the job done as safely as you can.” When the rescue is complete and the battle against the flames in temperatures that can reach in excess of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit is won Mokracek says you can feel the elation, “You’ve completed your task and then the hard work comes, it’s time to clean up. The fire is out and it starts to cool off and it’s a time of comradery with your fellow firefighters.”
In the words of 18-year-old Ellie Plate of Soldotna, “I’d trust my life to any of these guys I’m training with, we become a team and you have to trust that team to back you up,” said Plate. Plate plans to graduate from the CES Academy and then pursue a paramedic degree so she can get a job as a paramedic firefighter. Plate became interested in firefighting when she joined the CES Explorer program for high school aged kids 15-18 years of age.
With the expanded service to Kasilof and Funny River CES is looking for recruits, “We had eight out there today, but we are always looking, “We have one training academy annually usually toward the end of summer, but anyone interested can stop by the CES office in Soldotna and pick up an application to get the process started. We really need volunteers or on call firefighters right now in the Kasilof and Funny River areas,” added Chief Mokracek.
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